Abstract

“The Diversity Requirement” takes on anti-neoliberal criticisms of the post-2008 US university as emblematized by quit lit, the essay genre in which tenure-track hopefuls announce that they are leaving academia, as deracinated yet totalizing theories that ignore how racism structures institutional contingency and academic precarity, even when the diversity requirement is a norm. This article responds by turning to the Asian American campus novel, a generic category not readily deployed because of the recurrence of universities in literary and lived model minority narratives. Taking Asian American institutional racialization as representative of the ambivalence that subtends contingency, “The Diversity Requirement” connects the author’s experience as contingent faculty and as staff of the campus diversity requirement to readings of Karen Tei Yamashita’s I Hotel (2010) and Weike Wang’s Chemistry: A Novel (2017) through the figure of the Asian American student teacher, the apt pupils within liberal whiteness who lack expertise or experience and yet are tasked with teaching responsibilities for diversity without full access to institutional power. In doing so, this article theorizes ambivalent contingency—a mitigated agency and constrained privilege from within institutional contingency that reflects contradicting intersections of power within and beyond the individual—as a strategy for surviving the institution without reproducing its logics of exclusion.

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